One the of the big impacts on schools of the past two years of pandemic has been on their sense of community. The need to stay home and to limit the number of opportunities to celebrate community took its toll. However, as we progressively move away from the times of most stringent restrictions, we are re-energising our community through exciting celebrations.
The Bible reveals that God is thoroughly relational, in his own being. It also reveals that we are created as relational beings and for relationship with him. Indeed, the purpose of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection was to restore relationship and connection between God and humanity.
Being created by a relational God means we have been ‘hard wired’ for connection since birth and the need for belonging is fundamental to our wellbeing.
In this world of fast and faster change and hyper-individualism, we struggle to sustain a deep sense of belonging – to feel that we have a home with the people and the places around us. This disconnection and lack of belonging brings all the negative impacts we know too well, of mental and physical health issues. But the cost of disconnection is not just worn by the individual – our communities also suffer in the form of poor health, distrust, segregation, and apathy.
Hence recent and upcoming events in the school are important in working to build connection, belonging and enrich our school community. These events give us the opportunity to share our stories.
Stories are an ancient means of connection that all known human cultures have used to bring people together. Stories help us share our sense of individual identity, our understanding and sense of belonging in a place.
Every person has a story – young or old, rich or poor, in any culture – who we are, is made up of the stories we tell ourselves and each other. When we share our story with another person we feel heard, we feel valued, that we matter and that we belong in that community. This interaction is the foundation for trust, connection and collaboration. The stories we tell as a group make up the narrative of how we see our community and our role in it.
Last week we celebrated our school’s diverse multicultural nature. Students were invited to dress in clothing representative of their cultural heritage. This expression through clothing started hundreds of conversations across the school about family histories and who students see themselves to be. Students spoke with pride of their cultural heritage and gave performances of music, dance and poetry. These conversations and performances tell the stories of students’ families and their identity. This day of celebration and those like it tell the story of our school and of those who belong here.
This week we held 2023 Prep-Kindergarten Information Evening. While one purpose is to equip parents to support their children to make a good start to school life, it was also an opportunity for new families to connect, share a little bit about themselves and their hopes for their children as they embark on their journey of learning with us and live out the story of their school years. At the opposite end of the school next week, we will be celebrating the school lives of our HSC graduates. Some of these students have joined the school just recently, while others will be celebrating 13 years of school life at William Carey. Amongst this cohort are families whose stories have been woven with that of William Carey for three decades. This will be a great day of sharing the stories of our years together.
One further event, while smaller, is no less important. Today I had the privilege to attend and speak at the High School Learning Support Unit awards assembly along with our founding principal Mr Warwick Wilke. This assembly acknowledges the graduating students of the learning support unit. While these students have disability, their gifts, skills and passions enrich our community along with all of our students. This assembly provided the forum for students and families to share their experiences, stories of school and hopes and plans for the future while we celebrated these students’ successes.
It is such a privilege to be part of a school that is made up from so many different ‘stories’. These examples of story sharing illustrate how important meaningful connections are for promoting a learning community with a strong sense of belonging and respect. Some stories are joyous, while others involve mourning. Each one is essential to who we are as people, known individually to God. Our lives are so much richer because of the many stories that God is weaving together in this school community, and for that we can give thanks.
Mr Keith McMullen